When Don McLean penned to words to American Pie and included the line “the day the music died”, he could have been referring to yesterday when the original designer of the iconic Ford Mustang, Gale Halderman, died at age 87 from liver cancer.
In his lifetime he saw six model generations of the original design and more than 8-million units sold over a span of 50 years – yet remained very much in the background and let others take credit for the car.
Lee Iacocca was the man who pushed the Mustang through the spproval process at Ford and is often thought of as ‘The Father of the Mustang’ but it was Halderman who put pen to paper and came up the design.
At first Henry Ford II did not want the car, the company still living down the abject failutre of the Edsel, but Iacocca pushed and the legend was born.
In his book, ‘Mustang by Design: Gale Halderman and the Creation of Ford’s Iconic Pony Car’, Jimmy Dinsmore writes: “He (Halderman) did it in such a humble way that has touched the heart of every Mustang enthusiast out there. As great of a designer as he was, he was an even better human being. The most striking thing about the 40-year Ford employee was Halderman’s humility. For many years, Halderman did not receive much attention for being the Mustang’s original designer, preferring to let others take the credit.”
Recruited to Dearborn in 1954, designer Gale Halderman had helped shape the 1957 standard Ford before moving to the Corporate Advanced Studio, where he worked on ideas for a new low-cost sporty car favored by Ford division boss Lee Iacocca.
Halderman was transferred to the Ford Studio just in time to help Joe Oros’ team create the design chosen for the production Mustang over proposals from Corporate Advanced and the Lincoln-Mercury Studio.
Oros credits Halderman not only for contributing to the design but also for skillfully guiding the Mustang from clay-model dream to realistic, fully producible car. Here is Halderman’s account of the creation of the 1965 Ford Mustang prototype.
Very few cars have achieved the status levels in folklore the Mustang has…and rightfully so.